By Father Jovita Ho
“Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.”
Advent is not a season of making resolutions as we would for the beginning of a calendar year, but it is about watching and guarding our hearts for Jesus.
I am going back home to Singapore for Christmas, and though my departure date is approaching, my ticket was purchased in end February and my luggage all packed and readied a few weeks ago. Why am I doing all these? Because I long to see the faces of my family, friends and loved ones, and I long to celebrate Jesus with them.
Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year and it speaks of three main themes; watchful waiting, preparation, and justice. Advent speaks of justice, not merely in the sense of what we can and ought to do, but primarily of God’s promises to His people as we hear from Prophet Jeremiah, “I am going to fulfill the promise I made to the House of Israel and the House of Judah … Judah shall be saved and Israel shall dwell in confidence”. Because of God’s justness, we are called to live in a responsive way; where because God loves us justly, we are called to love justly those whom He loves as well. When someone loves us deeply and unconditionally, we respond to that love intuitively, not slavishly, but in complete freedom – Incarnate Love takes fl esh in our lives.
Advent speaks of preparation both internal and external. As a saying goes, ‘Our actions flow from our being.” This means that we live lives of certitude in Jesus who is our Lord and Saviour as we hear from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, ‘We urge you and appeal to you in the Lord Jesus to make more and more progress in the kind of life you are meant to live.” God has never meant for us to live our lives in a mediocre manner but for greatness, and the greatness of this certitude is found in Jesus Christ. We do what we do because of who Jesus is in our lives – likewise if we are lacking, it may be because we have pushed out the reason for the season.
Advent speaks of watchful waiting. Advent is not a season of making resolutions as we would for the beginning of a calendar year, but it is about watching and guarding our hearts for Jesus. As He said in the Gospel, ‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life.” We watch for Christmas offers and bargains and while that is not wrong, more importantly we need to watch our hearts lest it gets bargained away to the world. To ‘stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand” is only possible as long as we allow God’s plans to unfold in our lives. Liberation is freedom from the world and freedom for the Lord’s friendship.
Advent is a grace-filled season in which the Church bids us to renew our relationship with Jesus who loves us ever new. It is also a season for us to rediscover the potential saint in each one of us. And who and what is a saint? A saint is someone who knows that God loves him and he loves in return.
May this Advent grace flow into our hearts which long for nothing more than a going home to the Father, and may this homecoming be beautiful for ‘we love because He first loved us”.
Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus, come!
Fr Jovita studies Church history at the Gregorian Pontifical University in Rome.
This article was first published in The Catholic News on Sunday December 23, 2018.